Mechanical Genomic Studies Reveal the Role of d-Alanine Metabolism in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Cell Stiffness.
The stiffness of bacteria prevents cells from bursting due to the large osmotic pressure across the cell wall. Many successful antibiotic chemotherapies target elements that alter mechanical properties of bacteria, and yet a global view of the biochemistry underlying the regulation of bacterial cell stiffness is still emerging. This connection is particularly interesting in opportunistic human pathogens such as that have a large (80%) proportion of genes of unknown function and low susceptibility to different families of antibiotics, including beta-lactams, aminoglycosides, and quinolones. We used a high-throughput technique to study a library of 5,790 loss-of-function mutants covering ~80% of the nonessential genes and correlated individual genes with cell stiffness. We identified 42 genes coding for proteins with diverse functions that, when deleted individually, decreased cell stiffness by >20%. This approach enabled us to construct a "mechanical genome" for d-Alanine dehydrogenase (DadA) is an enzyme that converts d-Ala to pyruvate that was included among the hits; when DadA was deleted, cell stiffness decreased by 18% (using multiple assays to measure mechanics). An increase in the concentration of d-Ala in cells downregulated the expression of genes in peptidoglycan (PG) biosynthesis, including the peptidoglycan-cross-linking transpeptidase genes and Consistent with this observation, ultraperformance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis of murein from cells revealed that deletion mutants contained PG with reduced cross-linking and altered composition compared to wild-type cells. The mechanical properties of bacteria are important for protecting cells against physical stress. The cell wall is the best-characterized cellular element contributing to bacterial cell mechanics; however, the biochemistry underlying its regulation and assembly is still not completely understood. Using a unique high-throughput biophysical assay, we identified genes coding proteins that modulate cell stiffness in the opportunistic human pathogen This approach enabled us to discover proteins with roles in a diverse range of biochemical pathways that influence the stiffness of cells. We demonstrate that d-Ala-a component of the peptidoglycan-is tightly regulated in cells and that its accumulation reduces expression of machinery that cross-links this material and decreases cell stiffness. This research demonstrates that there is much to learn about mechanical regulation in bacteria, and these studies revealed new nonessential targets that may enhance antibacterial chemotherapies or lead to new approaches.